Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Inspiration: Cauliflower really is a lovely and versatile vegetable. You can roast it, steam it, make it into a gratin, saute it, rice it, mash it……the possibilities are almost endless. Pureed into a soup, though – there’s something that we hadn’t tried!

What we Loved: This was a rich soup with a great, creamy texture. Really, it tasted almost identical to potato soup, which was completely unexpected. The spices – mainly sage and a touch of nutmeg – were subtle but added a nice depth, and Brandon just couldn’t get enough of the salty prosciutto on top. It truly did give the dish that finishing touch, as the saltiness complemented the creamy vegetable flavors so well. I would define this vegetable-packed soup as comfort food in a bowl, perfect for a chilly evening.

Helpful Hints: While the prosciutto is really a perfect pairing for this soup with its lovely saltiness, bacon or pancetta would also work. I think this would also be great with cubed ham and/or cheese added in.

Cauliflower Soup with Crispy Prosciutto
Source: Adapted from The Daily Soup Cookbook

Extra virgin olive oil
1 leek
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 bay leaves
Handful fresh sage, chopped
2 heads cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 tablespoon butter
4-6 slices prosciutto, cut into thin pieces

1. Cut off the white and light green part of the the leek. Cut this part in half vertically, then clean each half well under running water. Slice into  1/8 inch half moons.

2. Heat the oil in a pot. Add the leeks, and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes.

3. Add the salt, pepper, nutmeg, and bay leaves, and stir to coat the leeks.

4. Add the sage, cauliflower, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is softened.

5. Remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaves, and puree completely with an immersion blender or food processor.

6. Mix in the half and half. Return to the low heat, allowing the soup to heat through.

7. Meanwhile, add a pat of butter to a saute pan. Add the prosciutto, and cook until crispy.

8. Season the soup with additional salt if necessary. Serve the soup topped with the prosciutto.

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Tomato Pesto Soup

Tomato Pesto Soup

*Photos and Content Updated June 2012*

Inspiration: I need to experiment more with weekend lunches. For some reason, I usually just resort to whatever we can scrounge up from the pantry. But why? Weekends at home are really the perfect time to cook more. And our cat Boots seems to agree! Somehow, he got it into his head that sitting on top of the refrigerator and meowing/nuzzling my head when I walk by/doing any cute thing that he can think of every time that I come near him means that he will receive treats. He was my buddy the entire time that I was whipping up this soup.

What we Loved: This soup has a rich, garlicky flavor from all of the pesto, which is such a great complement to tomatoes in any form. It’s really just a classic Italian-flavored soup with a nice little spin. I love the dollop of extra pesto served on top, which adds a bright burst of herbal flavor, and I can never get enough black pepper freshly ground atop my tomato soup. For some reason, I’ve just always loved that flavor contrast of bright tomato and spicy pepper – from tomato soup with pepper to freshly sliced grape tomatoes with just a sprinkle of salt and pepper on top. What a great and classic pairing.

Helpful Hints: Don’t skip the butter in this recipe. It really cuts the acidity of the tomatoes, leaving you with a balanced flavor (plus just a touch of a buttery flavor, which is always a plus). You can also use less stock and/or more half and half for a creamier soup.

Tomato Pesto Soup
Source: Original Recipe

Butter, for sauteeing
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
4 cups chicken stock (or vegetable stock, to keep this vegetarian)
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped
6 tablespoons pesto
2 tablespoons butter
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 cups half and half

1. Heat a pat of butter in a large pot. Saute the onion until softened, then add the garlic. Cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, sundried tomatoes, and pesto. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 15-20 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat, and blend with an immersion blender or food processor. Return to very low heat, and add the butter and half and half. Stir well to combine, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Serve with a dollop of additional pesto and freshly ground black pepper.

Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Avocado and Cilantro

Inspiration: I love making homemade soups. Since we receive two chickens per month in our CSA share, we make a ton of stock, and we like to use it to make soups to take to work for lunches throughout the week. Do you know what I hate, though? Pureeing soups in a food processor. What a giant pain. I was so happy this year when Brandon surprised me on my birthday with an immersion blender and two new soup cookbooks! Hurray!

What we Loved: This is one of the best soups that I’ve ever made, and it’s my favorite soup that we’ve had since the pork hock and 15 bean soup back in November. The flavor of the soup is really outstanding, with a nice southwestern feel. With the rich black beans and tomatoes, the spicy sausage and cumin, and the fresh complements of avocado and cilantro, there really are a lot of great things going on. The base of the soup is so smooth and creamy (with some nice added texture from the sausage), and it’s nice and filling since it’s so packed full of protein. I really can’t say enough about how much we loved this recipe!

Helpful Hints: I ate some of the leftovers with bleu cheese crumbles on top instead of avocado and cilantro, and that was a great pairing as well!

Black Bean and Sausage Soup with Avocado and Cilantro
Source: Adapted from The Daily Soup Cookbook

1 lb pork sausage
1 onion
1 habanero, seeded and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 bay leaves
1 lb black beans, soaked overnight
6 cups chicken stock
28 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 avocado
Handful cilantro, chopped

1. Crumble the sausage into a soup pot, and saute until cooked through. Remove to a bowl.

2. In the same pot, add the onion, and cook until softened. Add the habanero and the garlic, and cook for an additional minute.

3. Add the cumin, thyme, and bay leaves, and stir to coat the vegetables.

4. Stir in the black beans, chicken stock, tomatoes, pepper, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and partially cover. Simmer 1-2 hours, until the beans are tender.

5. Puree the soup with a food processor or an immersion blender.

6. Season to taste with Kosher salt. Add the sausage back into the pot, mix to combine, and bring everything to a simmer again for a few additional minutes.

7. Peel, pit, and dice the avocado. Mix with a handful of cilantro and a good sprinkle of Kosher salt.

8. Serve the soup topped with the avocado mixture.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone

*Photos Updated November 2012*

Inspiration: After receiving some beef soup bones in our CSA share, we made our first batch of homemade beef stock and needed a good use for it. Giada’s recipes never disappoint!

What we Loved: This was such a heartwarming Italian style soup with a myriad of great flavors. The rustic tomato, savory beef, nutty Parmesan, and creamy cannelini bean flavors all paired so well together. I tend to use cannelini beans with poultry or with lighter meals, but I was pleasantly surprised with how well they stood up to the stronger flavors in this soup and provided a creamy, nutty taste that was a great addition. This soup is really a wonderful comfort food meal for a cold day. It’s almost like a soup version of spaghetti and meatballs. That’s not exactly the right comparison, of course, but I crave a meal like spaghetti and meatballs when I want all of those Italian comfort food elements like rich tomato sauce and heaps of Parmesan cheese. All of those great elements are right here in this soup.

Helpful Hints: I chose this recipe to use my beef stock, but I should have known that the beef stock itself would be hidden by the strong flavors of the diced tomatoes and tomato paste. Not that this was a bad thing, because the soup was perfect, but if you’re looking for a recipe to showcase the flavor of the stock, something like a vegetable beef soup would fit the bill more precisely.

Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone
Source: Giada De Laurentiis

I doubled the recipe and made a few slight adjustments to the ingredients. Here’s the recipe as I made it.

1 tablespoon butter
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
1 lb ground beef
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
8 cups beef stock
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 (15 oz) cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 dried bay leaves
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Add the butter to a stock pot, and heat over medium heat. Stir in the onions and carrots, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the vegetables are softened.

2. Increase the heat to medium high. Crumble the beef into the pot, and cook until the beef is browned and cooked through.

3. Mix in the garlic, cooking for an additional 30 seconds.

4. Mix in the tomato paste.

5. Add the broth, tomatoes, beans, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered, allowing the liquids to reduce and the soup to thicken.

6. Remove the bay leaves. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve garnished with Parmesan.

Pork Hock and 15 Bean Soup

Inspiration: I rave about the benefits of our meat CSA all of the time, but one of the great things about it is that every now and then, it opens us up to some new and interesting foods. I probably wouldn’t have gone to the store and picked out a pork hock, but when we were given one in our CSA share, we had to make good use of it. I stumbled upon an awesome bag containing a mixture of 15 beans from a local farm while I was grocery shopping recently, and it happened to have a ham and bean soup recipe on the back. Perfect for adapting for our pork hock!

What we Loved: Since we had never cooked with pork hocks before, B and I were both very skeptical at first, but it really turned out that the pork hock was the key ingredient to this soup. The main flavor of the soup came from the broth, which was wonderfully rich and smoky with a great pork/ham taste. And after 10+ hours in the crockpot, the meat completely fell off of the bone. It was so easy to cut off the fat/tough parts and shred the rest for the soup. With plenty of salt for added flavor and the great creamy texture of all of the different kinds of beans, there sure was a whole lot going on with just a few ingredients. Brandon and I would both list this as one of our favorite soups that we’ve ever made.

Helpful Hints: Make sure to add plenty of salt (taste testing as you go) when the soup is done cooking, as it really does enrich all of the other flavors in the pot a lot. And I’m sure that this soup would be good with any kind of beans you prefer – there’s no need for a 15 bean mix if you can’t find one. But I thought that it was really awesome to use such a varied mix with such an awesome nutritional profile! (If you’re interested or want to pick and choose some beans to use for this recipe, our bag of beans contained: yellow eye beans, cranberry beans, red kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, great northern beans, adzuki beans, cannellini beans, yellow peas, green peas, blackeye peas, red lentils, green lentils, baby limas, and Christmas limas).

Pork Hock and 15 Bean Soup
Source: Adapted from Carlson-Arbogast Farm’s (Howard City, MI) recipe for “Mom’s Favorite Soup”

24 oz mixed beans (I used a bag of Carlson-Arbogast Farm’s Bean Appetite Souper Mix)
Oil or butter
2 cups onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 quarts chicken stock
1 smoked pork hock
Kosher salt and black pepper

1. Soak the beans covered in water overnight, then drain and rinse.

2. Heat a bit of oil or a pat of butter in a pot (I use the stovetop-safe removeable insert of my crockpot) over medium heat. Add the onions, and saute until softened and lightly browned. Mix in the garlic and the cumin, cooking for an additional 30 seconds.

3. Add the chicken stock and beans, and bring to a boil.

4. If using a stovetop-safe crock pot insert, remove the insert from the stove and place it back in the crock pot. Otherwise, transfer the mixture to your crock pot. Add the pork hock and cook on low for 10-12 hours.

5. Remove the pork hock. The meat should fall from the bones. Remove any fat/tough parts, and then shred the rest and return it to the pot.

6. Season the soup well with salt and pepper. Makes 12 cups.

Gazpacho

Gazpacho

*Photos and Content Updated June 2012*

Inspiration: What to do with a surplus of garden tomatoes and cucumbers (more thanks to Brandon’s parents)? Knocking out a soup recipe that has been on my to-make list for ages sounded like a plan. And in the knick of time, too, as my mind is already in chili/stew mode.

What we Loved: What a refreshing soup. After trying gazpacho for the first time a few months back at a restaurant, we both knew that we would love a homemade version. If you haven’t had gazpacho before, it may sound odd or unappetizing to eat a cold tomato soup, but it really is unexpectedly good. It’s wonderfully refreshing, with nice crisp cucumbers and peppers and just a little kick of spice from the jalapenos. This soup is so chock full of vegetables and spices that there’s a great combination of (peeled, seeded, and skinned) vegetables in every bite. At the same time, the soup is nice and mild without any flavors that are too strong or overpowering. This is a fantastic end-of-summer work week lunch or a great light dinner served alongside some grilled chicken breasts.

Helpful Hints: This one is really a simple recipe, but it requires a lot of peeling, dicing, and seeding – so make sure to leave plenty of time. Depending on what kind of texture you prefer, you could throw as much or as little of vegetable mixture into the blender for a super chunky soup or one that is completely pureed. But I think that the recipe as written is a good balance. After all that work, it would be a shame to puree it all.

Gazpacho
Source: Alton Brown

I made some slight changes to the recipe, and I also made a double batch. Here’s the recipe for a single batch (serving 4) with my changes.

1 1/2 pounds tomatoes (about 4 large)
Tomato juice (from tomatoes; directions follow)
1 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
Handful cilantro, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1. Fill a pot with water, and bring to a boil.

2. Make an X with a knife on the bottom of the tomatoes. Drop them into the boiling water, boil for about a minute, and then remove. Let cool.

3. Peel the tomatoes. Chop off the top of the tomato with the core, and then cut the tomatoes into quarters. Place a mesh sieve over a large bowl, and seed and juice each tomato portion over the sieve, pressing as much of the juice as possible through the sieve with your hands. You should end up with about 1 cup of juice. If necessary, supplement with store bought tomato juice, or just use whatever amount you end up with from the fresh tomatoes (which is what I did).

4. After juicing/seeding the tomatoes, chop them into small pieces. Place the tomatoes into the bowl with the juice. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, jalapeno, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, lime juice, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine.

5. Transfer 1 cup of the mixture (use more – or all – if desired) to a blender, and puree (or use an immersion blender). Return the pureed mixture to the bowl, and stir to combine.

6. Cover and chill for at least two hours before serving.

Zucchini Basil Soup

Zucchini Basil Soup

*Photo and Content Updated July 2012*

Inspiration: When I first ran across this soup recipe, I really thought that it had our names written all over it. For one, Brandon and I love basil and love anything that involves it. The idea of pureeing it in a soup seemed brilliant and was something that had never occured to me. And secondly, all of the fresh zucchini and basil really make this a great summer soup, which is a bit unusual and different (….just in case the mood for a soup happens to hit on a 90 degree day).

What we Loved: My best description of this soup would be that it tasted like a pesto soup. Amazing! I used a lot more basil than originally called for, and I also added a Parmesan rind to the soup as it cooked. When I mixed the shredded Parmesan in at the end, this really had a lot of the components of a classic pesto. The zucchini, which was the bulk of the soup, had such a smooth and subtle vegetable flavor and added a wonderful creaminess. I think I’d list this as one of my favorite soups to date.

Helpful Hints: The Parmesan was delicious mixed into this soup, so I’d recommend having plenty on hand. I originally wanted to saute some chopped prosciutto until it was crispy and use that as a  topping, too, but my store was out of prosciutto. I still think  that it would be a wonderful addition, though. Pine nuts would also be great and contribute even further to that pesto-like flavor.

Zucchini Basil Soup
Source: Adapted from Caviar and Codfish, originally from Gourmet

Butter
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 lbs zucchini, roughly chopped
3 cups stock (use vegetable stock to keep this vegetarian)
1 cup loose basil leaves
1 Parmesan rind
Kosher salt and black pepper
Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. Heat a pat of butter in a pot over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent, about 3-4 minutes, and then add the garlic. Cook for an additional minute.

2. Add the zucchini and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

3. Add the stock and the Parmesan rind, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Remove the Parmesan rind. Puree the soup along with the basil using a food processor or immersion blender.

5. Season with salt and pepper, and serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.